In the Scriptures, our robe, or our clothing, is used as a symbol of our character. We see this in the experience of Adam and Eve. They had a robe of light, representing a righteous character. When they sinned and lost that covering, they made some fig leaf garments to replace it. These artificial garments have become synonymous with righteousness by works, but they are not acceptable.
In place of the garment of leaves, the Lord prepared a garment for them from the skin of an animal. This garment, which cost the life of the innocent animal, was symbolic of the garment of Christ’s righteousness, which cost the life of His own Son and which all must wear who will be saved. In Revelation 19:7-8, we find our clothing referred to as our works. “Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready. And to her it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints.” As acts are repeated, they become habits, and those habits become character.
You can read in Ephesians 5 concerning the church, that the church will be arrayed in linen, a garment of character that will be without spot or wrinkle, without blemish. Speaking of Armageddon, we read: “Behold I am coming as a thief. Blessed is he who watches, and keeps his garments, lest he walk naked and they see his shame” Revelation 16:15. If your garment is torn or becomes spotted or wrinkled, you will not be ready for Armegeddon.
In the Old Testament, there is one robe that was a special symbol, and that was the robe worn by the high priest. Speaking of this robe, we are told: “The pattern of the priestly robes was made known to Moses in the mount. Every article the high priest was to wear, and the way it should be made, were specified. These garments were consecrated to a most solemn purpose. By them was represented the character of the great antitype, Jesus Christ.” The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, vol. 5, 1104
Because it represented Christ’s character, under no condition was this robe to be torn or rent. The penalty for failing to comply with this requirement was death. The Jews, however, had gotten together and had written a church manual that contained rules differing from those in the Bible. According to their church manual, there was one exception to God’s rule. In the case of blasphemy, in order to show his horror, the high priest was allowed to tear his robe. It is quite obvious that Caiaphas placed a higher value on the church manual than on the Bible. By the way, in those days you could not even be a high priest unless you were willing to go along with the church manual. That was a prerequisite.
So, when Caiaphas tore his robe, though his action was approved of by the church manual, according to God’s Word, he was deserving of death. Of course, nothing like this could ever happen again, could it?
“We want to understand the time in which we live. We do not half understand it. We do not half take it in. My heart trembles in me when I think of what a foe we have to meet, and how poorly we are prepared to meet him. The trials of the children of Israel, and their attitude just before the first coming of Christ, have been presented before me again and again to illustrate the position of the people of God in their experience before the second coming of Christ.” Selected Messages, book 1, 406
The condition of Israel then, according to Ellen White, was representative of our experience just before the second coming of Jesus Christ. Jesus told the people of His day, “You have made the commandments of God of no affect by your tradition.” Matthew 15:6
Have you ever heard of a “duly appointed leader”? Or have you ever heard the phrase, “properly constituted church authority”? Was Caiphas a duly appointed leader? Well, who is a duly appointed leader? This is something that we need to understand.
“For thus rending his garment in pretended zeal, the high priest might have been arraigned before the Sanhedrin. He had done the very thing that the Lord had commanded should not be done. Standing under the condemnation of God, he pronounced sentence on Christ as a blasphemer. He performed all his actions toward Christ as a priestly judge, as an officiating high priest, but he was not this by the appointment of God, the priestly robe he rent in order to impress the people with his horror of the sin of blasphemy covered a heart full of wickedness. He was acting under the inspiration of Satan.” The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, vol. 5, 1105
Was he duly appointed? He was not appointed by God. Who was directing his actions? Do God and the devil ever work in partnership? No! Never! The Bible is very clear on that. First Corinthians 10:20-21 says, “You can not drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of devils.” It does not say you should not; it says you cannot. You can have it one way or the other but not both.
“Under a gorgeous priestly dress, he was fulfilling the work of the enemy of God.” Ibid.
Is it properly constituted church authority to do the work of the devil? Now notice the next sentence.
“This has been done again, and again.” Ibid.
Let me ask you this question. How much authority did Caiphas have?
“With Caiaphas the Jewish high priesthood ended. This proud, overbearing, wicked man proved his unworthiness ever to have worn the garments of the high priest. He had neither capacity, nor authority from heaven.” Manuscript Releases, vol. 12, 387
How much authority did he have? Though he had what they called properly constituted authority, he had no authority from heaven.
“He had not one ray of light from heaven to show him what the work of the priest was, or for what the office had been instituted. Such ministration could make nothing perfect, for in itself it was utterly corrupt. The priests were tyrannous and deceptive, and full of ambitious schemes. The grace of God had nought to do with this.” Ibid., 388
“Oh,” but someone says, “he was the high priest.” Well, let us just look at that for a moment. Was he the high priest? Now remember, it was several years before A.D. 34. Was Caiaphas the leader of God’s people? No, no he was not. “Virtually Caiaphas was no high priest.” The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, vol. 5, 1101
Was he the high priest or was he not the high priest? He was not the high priest, though he may have been so by profession. Do you see why we say that there is a difference between the professed church and the true church? There is a difference, and in a time of apostasy, there is a great difference. We have been trying to teach people this for a few years now, but it is so ingrained that unless the Holy Spirit works on their minds, they never understand the point. Profession and reality are not necessarily the same thing.
How is it with you today, friend? Is your character in harmony with your profession? If it is not, your profession is telling a lie and you can never go to heaven, although you call yourself a Seventh-day Adventist. If the things you profess to believe are not a reality in your life, your life is a lie because your character is not in harmony with your profession.
“He [Caiaphas] was uncircumcised in heart. With the other priests he instructed the people to choose Barabbas instead of Christ.” Manuscript Releases, vol. 12, 388
When Caiaphas asked Jesus if He was really the Christ and Jesus replied that He was, Caiaphas tore his robe. Why did Caiaphas tear his garment? He did it deliberately, and he did it for a reason. It was a custom among the Jews that whenever one of your relatives had died, you would tear your clothes as a way of expressing extreme sorrow and grief. The Lord had prohibited the priests from doing this, but, as was pointed out earlier, they had found a way around God’s clear command.
The experience Christ was subjected to was repeated many times during the Protestant Reformation. First, the Protestant Reformers were excommunicated, or disfellowshipped, from their churches. When this did not stop the Reformation, they were placed in prison. Finally, when other measures had failed to suppress their activities, it was determined that they must die. The men who were responsible would maintain that they certainly hated to treat them so, but they were left no choice. This is what Caiaphas was telling Jesus. He was saying, in essence, “I’m going to have to kill you because of your theological errors, but I’m so sorry about it.” The trouble with such a statement was that Caiaphas was not really sorry at all. Ellen White makes this very clear.
“So perverted had the priesthood become that when Christ declared Himself the Son of God, Caiaphas, in pretended horror, rent his robe, and accused the Holy One of Israel of blasphemy.” The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, vol. 5, 1104
It is wrong to pretend under any circumstance, but the worst kind of pretense is when you pretend to be pious, and that is the kind of pretension this was—he was pretending to be in terrible sorrow and shock, and it was not even so. This made the act even more wicked than it would have been otherwise.
By the way, have any of you ever received any letters that begin something like, “I’m so sorry to have to inform you,” and then go on to explain the unpleasant action they have been forced to take? Friend, you had better never tell someone you are sorry if it is not really the truth, because God hates pretense.
Caiaphas also showed that he did not realize, if he ever knew, what his robe represented. It represented the character of the One standing before him. It was terrible blasphemy for him to tear his robe because Christ’s character had not been torn; it had never been defiled.
When he tore his robe, he said, in effect, we will not have this Man to rule over us. What had he done? He separated himself—remember now, he was a representative of the whole Jewish nation—from God.
God has given to you and me the power of choice, but I want to tell you, He honors our power of choice. People say, “Well the church is going through.” Do you believe that we have the power of choice? Did Caiaphas have the power of choice? Certainly he did, but he made a choice, and God honored his choice. I want to tell you, friend, God honors people’s choices.
“In Christ the shadow reached its substance, the type its antitype. Well might Caiaphas rend his clothes in horror for himself and for the nation; for they were separating themselves from God, and were fast becoming a people unchurched by Jehovah. Surely the candlestick was being removed out of its place.” Ibid., 1109
What were they doing? They were become a people unchurched. Do you want a synonym for that? That means they were disfellowshipping themselves. By this act, Caiaphas was separating, or divorcing himself from God; and everyone who followed his example, yielding to his influence, was doing the same thing. Because of this choice, millions of people lost their lives.
By the way, they still went to church; they went to the building; they said the same prayer; they went through the same service. They still had the same organization; they still had the same bank account; they still had the same name; but they were disfellowshipped, and they did not even know it.
If they had been striving to be in harmony with God’s will and to obey Him, Caiaphas would have been killed for the crime he had committed; but they decided instead to follow him.
What was God’s response?
“When Caiaphas rent his garment, his act was significant of the place that the Jewish nation as a nation would thereafter occupy toward God. The once favored people of God were separating themselves from Him, and were fast becoming a people disowned by Jehovah.” The Desire of Ages, 709
God accepted the choice that Caiaphas made; and God is watching the choices that you and I are making, the choices that every minister is making and the choices that every church is making God is going to respond in keeping with the decision of each person.
Here is what happened when Jesus died on the cross:
“It was not the hand of the priest that rent from top to bottom the gorgeous veil that divided the holy from the Most Holy Place. It was the hand of God. When Christ cried out, ‘It is finished,’ the Holy watcher that was an unseen guest at Belshazzar’s feast pronounced the Jewish nation to be a nation unchurched.” The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, vol. 5, 1109
Do you realize that this was some time before A.D. 34?
When Caiaphas rent his garment, there was more than one rending that took place. We have been looking at the outward rending of the garment of the high priest and its spiritual significance. It was a symbolic act of the separation, the divorcing of God’s people from Himself. When was this act completed? It was completed when the priest said, “We have no king but Caesar.” John 19:15
The Church is to be the bride, the wife of Christ; but if that church chooses to depart from the Lord and to form an alliance with the state, it has said in effect, we will no longer have the Lord to be our ruler. You cannot have two masters; it is impossible. No church or religious group can go to the state for the enforcement of their religious teachings without having left the Lord, and God will recognize that choice.
Are you aware that the Spirit of Prophecy says that there are three things the Lord will do when the church goes to the state for assistance in enforcing her decrees? First, He says that He will not hear their prayers. If that was the only thing to happen, that would be so serious that it should shake us to the bottom of our foundation. Second, she says that He will take the Holy Spirit away from them. Without the Holy Spirit you are lost. The third thing that the Lord will do is write them in the book of heaven as unbelievers. See Selected Messages, book 3, 299-302. If you are written in heaven as unbelievers, you are not even part of the church. You have torn the garment; you have separated yourself from the Lord.
There is a true rending of the garment.
“Christ mourned for the transgression of every human being. He bore even the guiltiness of Caiaphas, knowing the hypocrisy that dwelt in his soul, while for pretense he rent his robe. Christ did not rend His robe, but His soul was rent. His garment of human flesh was rent as He hung on the cross, the sin-bearer of the race. By His suffering and death a new and living way was opened.” The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, vol. 5, 1105
Jesus had an inner rending of His soul, and, friend, we are to enter into that experience if we are going to be saved.
“Blow ye the trumpet in Zion, and sound an alarm in My holy mountain: let all the inhabitants of the land tremble: for the day of the LORD cometh, for it is nigh at hand;…Therefore also now, saith the LORD, turn ye even to Me with all your heart, and with fasting, and with weeping, and with mourning: and rend your heart, and not your garments, and turn unto the LORD your God: for He is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repenteth Him of the evil. Joel 2:1, 12, 13
“And I will pour on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Spirit of grace and supplication; then they will look on Me whom they pierced. Yes, they will mourn for Him as one mourns for his only son.” Zechariah 12:10
what are these verses talking about? Oh, friend, when Jesus hung on the cross, it was your sin that pierced Him; and it was my sin that pierced Him. The past, the present and the future are all alike to God. God saw you, and that is why Jesus came and died on the cross. When he hung on the cross, His heart was pierced; it was torn for you. The tearing of His flesh, His hands and His feet is just a symbol or a type of the real pain that was in His heart. The pain in His heart was so great, Ellen White says in the Desire of Ages, that the physical pain was hardly felt. We do not realize how bad sin is until we come to Calvary, and even then we cannot fully comprehend it.
Have you ever met parents who had only one child and that child died? The Lord says, that is the way My people are going to mourn in the last days. They are going to mourn as parents mourn who have lost their only child and grieve for Him as one grieves for a firstborn.
“Many today who claim to be Christians are in danger of rending their garments, making an outward show of repentance, when their hearts are not softened nor subdued. This is why so many continue to make failures in the Christian life. An outward appearance of sorrow is shown for wrong, but their repentance is not that which needs not to be repented of. See 2 Corinthians 7:10. May God grant to His church true contrition for sin. Oh that we might feel the necessity of revealing true sorrow for wrong-doing!” Review and Herald, June 12, 1900
Did you know that there was one garment that was not torn that day? Jesus had on an outer garment that the Bible says was without seam. As it had no seam, the soldiers decided not to tear it. Prophecy said that it would not be torn; it said they would cast lots for it. Do you realize the significance of this?
“Christ’s seamless garment is a representation of the unity that should exist in the church.” Manuscript Releases, vol. 5, 371
You are never going to have unity with just profession; but if you have a group of people who have had the true rending of the heart and not the garment, you are going to have a true unity. One of the most exciting things that I am finding as I travel is that all over the world God is drawing together faithful, Historic Seventh-day Adventists—just little groups here and there—and they are having the most marvelous experience of unity that I have ever seen. There is no question that God is going to have a united movement at the end. The only question is, Am I going to be part of it?
The devil is determined that this unity will never happen, but it is going to happen anyway. I would consider it the greatest privilege of my life if I could just have a little part in it. How about you?
That seamless robe represents the unity that is to exist among Christ’s true believers, and it must never be torn. We must always think of that seamless robe in all of our dealings with each other. We are not to tear it. The body of Christ is one body, and when one part suffers, all of the rest suffer. Oh, friend, Christ’s seamless robe represents the unity that is to exist among His true followers until the end of time. Do you want to be a part of it?